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What We're Watching: Despot faces justice, Saudi king ails, Greeks vs Turks

What We're Watching: Despot faces justice, Saudi king ails, Greeks vs Turks

Day of reckoning for a dictator: Omar al-Bashir, once Sudan's strongman, is now living the nightmare. Like a Shakespearean king who has long known he'll pay the price of all usurpers, Bashir went on trial on Tuesday, along with alleged accomplices, for his role in the 1989 military coup that toppled an elected government and brought him to power. His 30-year reign was first jeopardized in 2018 by large protests against austerity measures imposed on his people. When a military crackdown only made the crowds larger, the army agreed to oust him in April 2019. If convicted, Bashir could be executed, though Sudan's new government — a council composed of both civilian and military officials — has promised that he'll also face genocide charges at the International Criminal Court over his role in the still-unresolved Darfur conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands since 2003. This trial marks the first time in the modern history of the Arab world that a leader has faced justice for a coup that brought him to power. The trial has been adjourned until August 11.


A hospital in Riyadh: King Salman, the 84-year old monarch of Saudi Arabia, was admitted to hospital earlier this week after reportedly suffering inflammation of the gallbladder. Now, Signal isn't about to make the pivot to gastroenterology, so we can't say how the king is doing — but we can say that his health and longevity are huge political issues. Next in line to the throne is Salman's 34-year old son, Mohammed bin Salman, known to many in the west as MbS. The Crown Prince, who is already the de facto ruler of the kingdom, is a controversial figure. On the one hand, he has loosened some of Saudi Arabia's most extremely conservative laws. On the other, he has jailed relatives, unleashed a quagmire of a war in Yemen, and, according to various Western intelligence agencies, had a hand in planning the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. If — and when — MbS takes over, it would be a major turning point for the kingdom, cementing the possibility that he could rule for half a century or more. And he has his enemies who want to prevent that from happening...

Greeks and Turks bicker: Greece has threatened to pursue EU sanctions against Turkey if Ankara refuses to halt its plans to explore for oil and gas in disputed Mediterranean waters off Cyprus. The Greeks argue that the Turks have no right to pursue those activities within the maritime jurisdictions of either Greece or Cyprus, while Ankara insists the area is part of Turkey's own continental shelf. This is just the latest episode in an often-testy relationship between both countries, which have long quarreled over ethnically divided Cyprus and EU-bound refugees. Greece and Turkey have also been at loggerheads lately over the Turkish government's controversial decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Greece, a majority Orthodox Christian nation, has rallied other countries and church leaders to stop the move, claiming that the conversion negates the long history of the UNESCO-listed tourist site in Istanbul as a former Orthodox Christian cathedral.

Now that Joe Biden is officially US president, leaders from around the world would like a word with him — but where will he make his first international trip?

After a tumultuous four years, many countries are now clamoring for a face-to-face with President Biden. That includes allies who felt abandoned by Trump's "America First" presidency, as well as adversaries with thorny issues on the agenda. We check in on who's pitching him hardest on a near-term state visit.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on what to expect from President Biden's first 100 days:

It's Inauguration Day. And you can see behind me the Capitol Building with some of the security corridor set up that's preventing people like me from getting too close to the building, as Joe Biden gets sworn in as our 46th president. Historic day when you consider that you've got Kamala Harris, the first woman vice president, the first woman of color to be vice president.

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On Wednesday, Joe Biden will become president because eighty-one million Americans, the highest tally in US history, voted to change course after four years of Donald Trump's leadership. Like all presidents, Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, take office with grand ambitions and high expectations, but rarely has a new administration taken power amid so much domestic upheaval and global uncertainty. And while Biden has pledged repeatedly to restore American "unity" across party lines — at a time of immense suffering, real achievements will matter a lot more than winged words.

Biden has a lot on his agenda, but within his first 100 days as president there are three key issues that we'll be watching closely for clues to how effectively he's able to advance their plans.

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Kamala Harris was sworn in today as the first woman Vice President of the United States. That means she's only a heartbeat away from occupying the Oval Office — and could well be the Democratic candidate to replace Joe Biden if the 78-year-old president decides to not run for reelection in 2024. Should Harris — or another woman — become US president soon in the future, that'll (finally) put America on par with most of the world's top 20 economies, which have already had a female head of state or government at some point in their democratic history. Here we take a look at which ones those are.

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